Skip to main content

Reading and Interpreting Ethnography

  • Chapter
  • First Online:
Ways of Knowing in HCI

Abstract

Ethnography is an approach to understanding cultural life that is founded on the researcher’s participation, with the goal of understanding not simply what people are doing, but how they experience what they do. The researcher participates in the life of the target people, both to serve as a stimulus (asking questions) that generates reactions and insights and to fully engage in the evolution and understanding of what is happening.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Chapter
USD 29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
eBook
USD 79.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book
USD 99.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info
Hardcover Book
USD 99.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions

Similar content being viewed by others

Notes

  1. 1.

    It should be noted that this is a very European history. Many of the same considerations animated the approximately contemporaneous work of Franz Boas in the USA, although their context was quite different.

  2. 2.

    This is an activity not for an individual but for a discipline, although articles in places like the Annual Review of Anthropology clearly provide some insight. More broadly, this approach signals the way that literature reviews do more than simply demonstrate that things have been read.

References

  • Agar, M. (1996). The professional stranger (2nd ed.). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Becker, H. (1998). Tricks of the trade: How to think about your research while you’re doing it. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Becker, H. (2007). Telling about society. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Becker, H., Geer, B., Hughes, E., & Strauss, A. (1961). Boys in White: Student culture in medical school. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Behar, R., & Gordon, D. (1996). Women writing culture. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bell, G., Blythe, M., & Sengers, P. (2005). Making by making strange: Defamiliarization and the design of domestic technology. ACM Transactions on Computer–Human Interaction, 12(2), 149–173.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Blomberg, J., Suchman, L., & Trigg, T. (1997). Reflections on a work-oriented design project. In G. C. Bowker, S. L. Starr, W. Turner, & L. Gasser (Eds.), Social science, technological systems, and cooperative work: Beyond the great divide. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bødker, S. (2006). When second wave HCI meets third wave challenges. Proceedings of the Nordic Conference on Human–Computer Interaction NordiCHI 2006 (pp. 1–8).

    Google Scholar 

  • Bowers, J., Button, G., & Sharrock, W. (1995). Workflow from within and without. Proceedings of the European Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work ECSCW’95, Stockholm, Sweden (pp. 51–66).

    Google Scholar 

  • Burrell, J. (2012). Invisible users: Youth in the Internet cafés of urban Ghana. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Clifford, J., & Marcus, G. (1986). Writing culture: The politics and poetics of ethnography. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Crabtree, A., Rodden, T., Tolmie, P., & Button, G. (2009). Ethnography considered harmful. Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems CHI 2009 (pp. 879–888).

    Google Scholar 

  • Cross, N. (2007). Designerly ways of knowing. Basel, Switzerland: Birkhäuser Varlag AG.

    Google Scholar 

  • DeWalt, K., & DeWalt, B. (2002). Participant observation: A guide for fieldworkers. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dourish, P. (2006). Implications for design. Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems CHI 2006, Montreal, Canada (pp. 541–550).

    Google Scholar 

  • Dourish, P. (2007). Responsibilities and implications: Further thoughts on ethnography and design. Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Designing for the User Experience DUX 2007, Chicago, IL.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dourish, P., & Bell, G. (2011). Divining a digital future: Mess and mythology in ubiquitous computing. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Dourish, P. & Mainwaring, S. (2012). Ubicomp’s colonial impulse. Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Ubiquitous Computing Ubicomp 2012, Pittsburgh, PA.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dunne, A., & Raby, F. (2001). Design Noir: The secret life of electronic objects. Basel: Birkhäuser.

    Google Scholar 

  • Emerson, R., Fretz, R., & Shaw, L. (1995). Writing ethnographic fieldnotes. Chicago, IL: Univesrity of Chicago Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Evans-Prichard, E. E. (1937). Witchcraft, Oracles, and Magic amongst the Azande. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fetterman, D. (1998). Ethnography: Step by step (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Firth, R. (1929). Primitive economics of the New Zealand Māori. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Garfinkel, H. (1996). Ethnomethodology’s program. Social Psychology Quarterly, 59(1), 5–21.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Geertz, C. (1973). The interpretation of cultures. New York: Basic Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Geertz, C. (1988). Works and lives: The anthropologist as author. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gupta, A., & Ferguson, J. (1997). Anthropological locations: Boundaries and grounds of a field science. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Harrison, S., Sengers, P., & Tatar, D. (2011). Making epistemological trouble: Third paradigm HCI as successor science. Interacting with Computers, 23(5), 385–392.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Horst, H., & Miller, D. (2006). The cell phone: An anthropology of communication. Oxford: Berg.

    Google Scholar 

  • Levi-Strauss, C. (1958). Structural anthropology (anthropologie structurale). Paris: Plon.

    Google Scholar 

  • Levi-Strauss, C. (1962). The savage mind (La Pensee Sauvage). London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lindtner, S., Mainwaring, S., Dourish, P., & Wang, Y. (2009). Situating productive play: Online gaming practices and Guanxi in China. Proceedings of the IFIP Conference on Human–Computer Interaction INTERACT 2009 (Stockholm, Sweden), Lecture Notes in Computer Science LNCS (Vol. 5736, pp. 328–341).

    Google Scholar 

  • Lofland, J., Snow, D., Anderson, D., & Lofland, L. (2006). Analyzing social settings: A guide to qualitative observation and analysis (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thompson.

    Google Scholar 

  • Loukissas, Y. (2012). Co-designers: Cultures of computer simulation in architecture. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mainwaring, S., Chang, M., & Anderson, K. (2004). Infrastructures and their discontents: Implications for Ubicomp. Proceedings of the International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing Ubicomp 2004 (LNCS 3205, pp. 418–432).

    Google Scholar 

  • Malaby, T. (2009). Making virtual worlds: Linden lab and second life. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Malinowski, B. (1922). Argonauts of the Western Pacific. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Malinowski, B. (1929). The sexual life of savages in North-West Melanesia. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Malinowski, B. (1935). Coral gardens and their magic. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Marcus, G. E. (1995). Ethnography in/of the World System: The emergence of multi-sited ethnography. Annual Review of Anthropology, 24(1), 95–117.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Marcus, G., & Fischer, M. (1986). Anthropology as cultural critique: An experimental moment in the human sciences. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Miller, D. (1997). Capitalism: An ethnographic approach. Oxford: Berg.

    Google Scholar 

  • Miller, D., & Slater, D. (2000). The Internet: An ethnographic approach. Oxford: Berg.

    Google Scholar 

  • Moore, J. (1997). Visions of culture: An introduction to anthropological theories and theorists. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nader, L. (1972). Up the anthropologist: Perspectives gained from studying up. In D. Hymes (Ed.), Reinventing anthropology (pp. 284–311). New York: Pantheon.

    Google Scholar 

  • O’Brien, J., Rodden, T., Rouncefield, M., & Hughes, J. (1999). At home with the technology: An ethnographic study of a set-top box trial. ACM Transactions on Computer–Human Interaction, 6(3), 282–308.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ortner, S. (2006). Anthropology and social theory: Culture, power, and the acting subject. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Pink, S. (2001). Doing visual ethnography. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Radcliffe-Brown, A. R. (1922). The Andaman Islanders. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rogers, Y. (1997). Reconfiguring the social scientist: Shifting from telling designers what to do to getting more involved. In G. C. Bowker, S. L. Star, W. Turner, & L. Gasser (Eds.), Social science, technological systems, and cooperative work: Beyond the great divide. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    Google Scholar 

  • Satchell, C. & Dourish, P. (2009). Beyond the user: Use and non-use in HCI. Proceedings of the Australasian Conference on Computer–Human Interaction OzCHI 2009, Melbourne, Australia (pp. 9–16).

    Google Scholar 

  • Schüll, N. (2012). Addiction by design: Machine gambling in Las Vegas. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Spradley, J. (1979). The ethnographic interview. Wadsworth/Thompson. Belmont, CA.

    Google Scholar 

  • Strathern, M. (2003). Commons and Borderlands: Working Papers on Interdisciplinary, Accountability and the Flow of Knowledge. Sean Kingston.

    Google Scholar 

  • Suchman, L. (1983). Office procedure as practical action: Models of work and system design. ACM Transactions on Information Systems, 1(4), 320–328.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Suchman, L. (1987). Plans and Situated Actions: The Problem of Human-Machine Communication. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Suchman, L. (1993). Technologies of accountability: On lizards and airplanes. In G. Button (Ed.), Technology in working order (pp. 113–126). London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Swan, L., Taylor, A., & Harper, R. (2008). Making place for clutter and other ideas of home. ACM Transactions on Computer–Human Interaction, 15(2), 1–24.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tolmie, P., Pycock, J., Diggins, T., MacLean. A., & Karsenty, A. (2002). Unremarkable computing. Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems CHI 2002 (pp. 399–406).

    Google Scholar 

  • Van Maanen, J. (2011). Tales of the field: On writing ethnography (2nd ed.). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Vertesi, J. (2012). Seeing like a rover: Visualization, embodiment and interaction on the mars exploration rover mission. Social Studies of Science, 42(3), 393–414.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Weiss, R. (1994). Learning from strangers: The art and method of qualitative interview studies. New York, NY: The Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Zimmerman, J., Stolterman, E., & Forlizzi, J. (2010). An analysis and critique of research through design: Towards a formalization of a research agenda. Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Designing Interactive Systems DIS 2010, Aarhus, Denmark (pp. 310–319).

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

The first version of the tutorial on which this document is based was developed and taught along with Ken Anderson. Wendy Kellogg and Judy Olson provided me with the opportunity to present it to an engaged audience at the HCIC meeting, and then another at UCI, both of whom helped me shape up the presentation considerably. I have written some about these topics before with Genevieve Bell, and taught some of them alongside Martha Feldman and Cal Morrill, all of whom have taught me a great deal, and shown me how much more I still have to learn. Work towards this chapter has been supported by the National Science Foundation under awards 0917401, 0968616, 1025761, and 1042678 and by the Intel Science and Technology Center for Social Computing.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Paul Dourish .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2014 Springer Science+Business Media New York

About this chapter

Cite this chapter

Dourish, P. (2014). Reading and Interpreting Ethnography. In: Olson, J., Kellogg, W. (eds) Ways of Knowing in HCI. Springer, New York, NY. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4939-0378-8_1

Download citation

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4939-0378-8_1

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, New York, NY

  • Print ISBN: 978-1-4939-0377-1

  • Online ISBN: 978-1-4939-0378-8

  • eBook Packages: Computer ScienceComputer Science (R0)

Publish with us

Policies and ethics